News >> In The Know

Knowledge has become a self-driven, globally harvested commodity Official information channels are failing. Marketing engines are self-serving. PR agencies control the media. Government is obtuse, removed and delayed. So where do you go for information that adds to your knowledge?

There`s no reason for despair. Knowledge has simply become a scattered resource. Someone, somewhere, has the information you need, and if you want it enough, you can usually get it, because the world is more connected than ever before.

So do you need a lot of stamina to find it? Or does it find you? First, you have to find the right resources or communities, and when you do, information from most of those sources should be pushed to you, or you`ll never sleep again. And you have to keep finding new sources, as PRs `infect` the old ones, organic and democratic as they need to be.


The recently launched `Geeklist` is a mailing list of IT journalists and other invited `geeks`. Though the traffic is more than I can handle, I dare not unsubscribe, as it delivers gems you could find elsewhere yourself, but only if you`re lucky and have a lot of time.

One member, Craig Rodney, a particularly well-informed PR consultant, uses Mozillazine, an online forum, for his questions about Mozilla apps. "A funny cross-over happened the other day - in the US got back to me immediately, and the following day someone on one of my lists posted the same question - which I was then able to answer."

Another online resource that has such credibility that it features on `s hype cycle, is wiki-driven websites. A wiki, used for example on, is an architectural feature of a website that allows editing by visitors.

The dangers of using such knowledge resources are considerable. But having set themselves the task of finding trustworthy, relevant information, if necessary by associating with the right crowd, people are trusting their communities to be just as serious about information reliability as they are.

They`re also becoming savvy. It used to be that journalists and policemen were the only ones who could spot a lie. These days, people filter out untrustworthy content themselves, read up or join communities when they`re not sure, and generally develop a seventh sense about a lie.

That is how you know not to open that mail, or if the spam kit is so advanced that you do, despite yourself, how you know not to try and donate to Katrina victims.


But there is another emerging quality of humanity one needs to bear in mind. Morality, like information, doesn`t come from just one place anymore (schools, governments, or even parents, all in cahoots). The world is heterogeneous in its cultural, religious and moral makeup, and enlightened people give this credence in their opinions and choice of information boutiques. As a result, people are not as predictable in their adherence to principles anymore - such as deadly honesty - which is where the thread returns to information. People manipulate information.

A video of a beheading is just as likely to be a hoax as real. This is one of the few instances where I`m unable to choose an appropriate response to information. But this cynical mutation of information manipulation is thankfully not as rife as the other, more harmless kind. Playfulness being a characteristic of self-guided modern discourse, we may lie (about harmless things) in the interest of higher values, such as teaching others irony.

And even this phenomenon is less pronounced, I think, than the sense of seriousness about the sacrosanct nature of information that I find on lists like Geeklist. Because you get out what you put in.

Of course, people tend to get isolated in their quest for knowledge. According to Roger Hislop, Cape-based writer: "A friend of mine is convinced that he`d be damn good on a dirt bike, because he is totally good at the computer game version. Not!"

Tags: Knowledge  Perspective